A SERIES OF
Our 2016 winter solstice sojourn in Las Vegas proved to be productive as it relates to my art avocation. Not only was it productive but my two grandchildren Griffin (8 and change) and Beckett (5 and change) “participated “in two of the six projects that were done while spending their holidays; hence the initials GB appear in those two respective pieces. To be noted also is the duplication of the surname SY, the second is for my brother Dorland who mounted all the wood carvings and masks and who is also instrumental in getting this project started when he presented me all the wood masks and artefacts upon our arrival in Vegas. Without him I will never be able to mount the COMBINES and therefore they would not have happened.
WHAT IS A COMBINE?
COMBINE is a word coined by Robert Rauschenberg, a native of Brooklyn, New York who was born in 1925 and died in 2008 . Simply defined it is a painting where foreign objects, be it three dimensional or not, like collage, montage, are incorporated into the canvass and becomes integral to the painting. This results in a hybrid, a painting sculpture. Some of Rauschenberg’s famous works are permanently exhibited at the MOMA in New York.
Incidentally, and coincidentally a retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg will be exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City starting May 21, 2017. Such a mounting monumental mounting usually stays for several months.
Materials: Six of the eight pieces of work described in this article measure 36″x26″and3/4″ of pre-cut compressed wood purchased from a lumber yard. The wood carvings and masks for the six pieces are a surprised purchase, by my brother Dorland who resides in Las Vegas. This batch purchase is prompted by the bargain tag price attached to the grouping. The wood carvings are from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and China. The media used are oil pastels, coloring pencils and occasionally black pen. The two earlier COMBINES one done in 2003, the other 2015 are both slightly off-size, more on this later.
Using wood as a canvass has its own inherent nuances and edge. For instance one has to work with a rougher surface canvass and also there are these whorls or knots which are innate to the wood. Sometimes the whorls are worked into the paintings themselves when strategically useful, this will be evident as the paintings are viewed. One other advantage is the finished product can be hanged without using expensive frames.
- BEAUTY UNMASKED
This is the first of the series and pretty straightforward. The right half of the lady’s face is untouched by color, the grain and patina, which is light brownish beige is allowed to speak for itself without exogenous tweak. The serene left half makes for a whole peaceful balanced piece that contrast well when juxtaposed with the beautiful but bold strong ebony mask which its prominence in its own way also exhibits its own layer of tranquility. The smudges and some lines on the right side of the face are contributed by Griffin. Beckett’s contribution to the painting happen to be underneath the mask, but they are colorful and disciplined. Hence the GB initials are etched at the right bottom.
- TWIN OCTOGENARIANS AT THE BAR
The cute smiling faces of these twin ladies in stark coal color are irresistible and a yellow lipstick accentuates their soft lips. They are identical edentulous twins but the carvings are alike but not identical. Subtle differences are notable. Somehow their celebration and indulgence in martinis for more than 6 decades helped preserve their youthful pulchritude and allows them to enjoy their passion for attractive colorful outfits. Before leaving this painting. Take note of the almost under the radar sketchy bartender in the background, or is this a reflection coming from the other side of the bar?
- SUN GODDESS OF PEACE
Whereas most of the paintings in this series are done in bold colors and demarcations and sometimes harlequin-like hues this particular piece appears almost monochromatic because of the blending of the different related colors as they appear in the color spectrum. The right hand is modeled after Griffin and the left hand belonged to Beckett. Both contributed to the actual coloring but done lightly and carefully upon instructions. Griffin actually did the four reddish corners of the painting thus giving it a nice anchor effect to the whole work. This is his original idea. Plain as this is, it took time to paint because of the delicate lines of each section of the piece. There are many geometric features done lightly and many blended carefully. The fine thin lines are carefully weaved or interleaved and form some almost amorphous geometric figures. The overall effect is an image of a peaceful goddess surrounded by radiant soft colors.
- DOUBLE ROYAL FLUSH….A MIRAGE?
Royal Flush, in a 5-card poker game is a term for a hand which consists of an Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten of the same suit, whether hearts, diamonds, spades or clubs. It is the strongest hand in poker and therefore unbeatble. A Royal Flush occurs in one of 649,740 events. So go figure out the odds if it occurred twice to the same player back-to-back as it did with this lady.
The viewer is first drawn to this painting by the large dominant, rich, colorful full blown red heart that reflects the ACE of hearts. On closer scrutiny that it apparently represents something else, namely the well-toned curvaceous glutei muscles of the lady player. The light blue diamond shape figure represents an actual anatomic shallow indentation landmark well-known to obstetricians and anatomists. This may disappear during pregnancy.
The Royal Flushes shown are cards from Mirage Hotel and Casino. A more intent study of the painting reveals that it is the most Picassoesque in the deconstruction of the female anatomy. It also includes the Harlequin-like geometric colors that surround the player. And since she had Royal Flushes note the pile of chips in front of her.
- THE QUEEN AND HER TWO HUSBANDS WITH BIG HANDS
The Queen looks happy, serene and satisfied. What the title does not say, is that the husbands are actually identical twins with large hands and bicolored irises, one eye is green and the other brown, just like Jane Seymour. The twins are benign co-rulers and believe in the upliftment of the masses. Incidentally Jane Seymour is also one of fraternal twins with the same color of eyes, one green and one brown.
The pill-like shaped structures seen floating in the background, some are the small whorls or knots of the wood that have been camouflaged by various colors and some added to achieve some perspective. Ditto for the left earing of the Queen which is a much larger whorl.
- WHO BEHEADED LIBERTY? … THE ORANGE MAN WITH SMALL HANDS
Liberty has no head, it is a concept and therefore can’t be decapitated. This painting is figurative and should not be taken literally. Words when spoken by one in power have consequences, hence the prevaricator’s prevaricator whose thrust is to defend any quotes or statements has to go through a gauntlet of questions from the press members. Lame excuses, like it being taken literally, it is a misquote, it is an alternate fact, it is a joke, and the meaning is something else, it has a broader meaning when the words are enclosed in quotations, it should be taken figuratively. So in that spirit let us take this macabre, horrific looking painting figuratively and not literally. After all once again Liberty is a concept that can’t be decapitated or even jailed.
Let us start with fierce-looking machete, used in the decapitation, the all bloodied head of Liberty, which seem to befit the dark background, and next to it is a bird’s nest filled with eggs of different currencies, mostly rubles, dollars, euros, yens or yuans and pesos that would make someone an unimaginable ginormous nest egg that could sustain even the abyssless unquenchable avarice of members of a noveau monarchy. Monarchies do not necessarily last, look at what happened to the Romanoffs. The Romanoffs failed.
This piece paints the darkness of defeat, of hopelessness and a vanquished state.
But wait the stars are still bright and they sparkle over Manhattan. This is a reference to the “Starry Night Over Rhone” by Van Gogh. This is a separate version of the “Starry Night” by the same post-impressionist, owned by MOMA in New York; the latter is more somber and ominous. The second variation is more glorious and hopeful and and is in permanent exhibit at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Again some of the small whorls in the canvass are made into the bright stars. As someone said recently Resist, Persist, Insist and Enlist. Hope is never lost.
As for the orange man it does not exist except in the world of Stephen Folker in his so-so received book of the same title. It is about an orange salesman who murdered his first victim. It is true however that some consider Orange as the new Black.
- A MAN AND A WOMAN
This started the series in 2003 because of an incidental decorative necessity. When we took ownership of our condo unit in late 2001 in Vegas there is this obtrusive rectangular metallic flat plate which houses the electric panel switches that comes smack on your face as one enters the short narrow corridor. We knew something has to be done to hide the panel.
Earlier I bought two elongated African wood images of a couple with strong African motif. These wood carvings are intended as decorative pieces for a bare wall. The pair is purchased not for any aesthetic appeal but for the price tag which was $5.99.The subject is made to look Africain but the craftsman is Chinese, since the label read Made in China. The idea to use the pair came much later in 2003.
My brother took the exact measurements of the area to be hidden of and we had a tailored cut piece of wood measuring 42 1/2″x22 3/4″ x3/4″. I suggested a black background and he flamed the wood with soldering equipment which brought out the beautiful grain that makes the patina of the piece. The piece sat well where it is hanged, camouflaging the metallic panel between the kitchen and facing the pantry.
- WHEN EYES MEET
This pair of fine wood sculpture are from Indonesia and they stood on the floor of our condo for years, with no special home. The fact that they had same orientation instead of facing each other added to the oddity of placement. These are purchased again because of the price of $7.99.
In 2015, in consultation with my brother I decided to dismantle and and unmount the pair, after he assured me he is able to do a COMBINE as envisioned, I had a specific wall space to interrupt.. This was to disturb the uniformity of all the other pictures in the area which are mostly modernism in style.
In making the abstract “heads” face each other he orientation of one had to be inverted, eyes were drawn in the round holes and now eye contact is established and soon communication..The rectangular black stands and the four metal rods that held them are re-placed appropriately to create a perspective of a couple in deep communion.The background consist of bright geometric cubistic colors contrast well with light ebony faces.This particular piece bookended the year 2015 and is included in my ARTBOOK.